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Murray River Indigenous Bark Canoe

Date: 1991
Dimensions:
Overall: 3645 mm, 17.1 kg
Display dimensions: 3400 x 445 x 65 mm
Vessel Dimensions: 3.4 m × 0.46 m (11.16 ft × 1.51 ft)
Medium: River red gum (eucalyptus camaldulensis)
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Canoe
Object No: 00015869
Place Manufactured:Ngarrindjeri
Related Place:Murray River,

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    Description
    This Murray River bark canoe was made by Paul Kropinyeri of the Ngarrindjeri community, in 1991. Scarred Red River Gums haunt the eroded banks of the Murray, like the ghosts of the old Ngarrindjeri canoe makers. Their bark canoes have not been seen since 1910.
    SignificanceThis bark canoe represents the people belonging to the Ngarrindjeri community. It highlights the role of the Murray River in their way of life and the importance of canoes in Murray River life, until the introduction of riverboats.
    HistoryPaul Kropinyeri grew up in the fringe camps along the Murray in the 1950s, learning woodcarving from Ngarrindjeri elders. He cut the shape of this canoe into a Red River Gum, slowly prised it off, and then weighted and cured the bark for over a month. Ngarrindjeri are the descendants of the many clan groups that lived throughout the lower Murray basin. They maintain a vital cultural identity. As in the past, life revolves around the river. It is a symbol of their cultural survival and potential for the future.

    The Murray-Darling Basin is Australia's largest river system, food bowl and inland water-transport corridor. Its waterways have been contested for generations - from colonial frontier wars to colour bars at local pools, and between farming and the environment itself. Threatened by salination and erosion, infested by carp and algae and depleted by dams and weirs, the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin now flow wearily.

    Today the descendants of many alienated Indigenous clans, such as the Ngarrindjeri from the Murray river land and Kamilaroi from Moree watercourse country, maintain shared histories and knowledge about people, place and the life of the waterways.
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